Graduate Student Anne Kalomiris: Discovering a Solution to Decrease Children’s Anxiety

Written by Tori Levy, CAS Communications Intern

 Anne Kalomiris 2018

 (Anne Kalomiris, Clinical Psychology Graduate Student conducting research study)


Anne Kalomiris is currently a graduate student at Miami University and the recipient of the NRSA award. She is researching how anxiety emerges in children, and is focusing on the parenting behaviors that might lead to an increased and decreased risk for anxiety.

“I’m interested in how anxiety symptoms can emerge through parent-child interactions throughout infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool,” Kalomiris said.

Kalomiris is curious what environmental factors may influence child development.  Her research has been under the mentorship of Dr. Elizabeth Kiel, who is an Associate Professor in the psychology department.

“I think it is important to also investigate the biological aspects of development because this nicely complements other psychological measures that may be considered more subjective,” Kalomiris said.

When Kalomiris was an undergrad, she was involved in physiological research. She used cardiovascular equipment and measured hormone concentrations, but she wasn’t necessarily looking at the questions she is looking at now.

“It was in graduate school that I was able to blend in my interest in development, physiology, and psychopathology.”

In her research, she looks at parent behaviors that may lead to an increased risk for child anxiety, such as overprotective behaviors or being overly comforting. She also looks at appropriately supportive parenting behaviors that encourage independence, which can have the opposite effect and decrease a child’s anxiety risk.

However, children differ in how susceptible they are to these parenting behaviors. A way to measure this susceptibility is to look at a child’s physiological reactivity. This can include the child’s concentration of hormones, cardiovascular reactivity, neurological functioning, and temperament. When a child is more physiologically reactive, they are going to feel things in the environment more intensely.

“I’m looking at how physiological reactivity in the child moderates the relation between the parenting environment and a neurological marker of anxiety, which is essentially a blip the brain gives off when you make a mistake. This neurological signal is amplified in people with anxiety,” said Kalomiris.

To conduct her research, she brings moms and their children into the lab and has them participate in novel activities,  such as interacting with a friendly clown, observing a puppet show, or being approached by a remote-controlled spider. The mom is instructed to act as she normally would, and Kalomiris measures how the mom responds to the child in these situations. Three years later, the child returns to the lab and their neurological activity is measured using electroencephalography (EEG).

For Kalomiris, it’s important to identify and target those parenting behaviors that increase child anxiety risk to reduce the impact of anxiety across the lifespan.

Parents may benefit from  psychoeducation about the parenting behaviors that can increase child anxiety risk. That way, these parenting behaviors can be replaced with more adaptive parenting behaviors to decrease risk for anxiety across the lifespan.

In the future, Kalomiris is hoping to obtain a research position in a university or an academic medical center, where she can continue her research and mentor future students of her own.